Justin H. (Justin Huntly) McCarthy.

The fair Irish maid online

. (page 7 of 20)
Online LibraryJustin H. (Justin Huntly) McCarthyThe fair Irish maid → online text (page 7 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

fine clothes and the membership of select clubs,
where entry was as difficult as through the eye of
a needle and play was as high as the Pyramids, a
world where honor meant the unquestioned meeting
of one kind of debt to the exclusion of all others,
and the unquestioned readiness to offer or to face
the muzzle of a pistol as the solution of any vexed
question of social ethics. The Lovelesses were ex-
tremely popular because they knew exactly how to
live the kind of life with which they were familiar.
Mr. Brummell was reported to have said that none
of them knew how to dress, but then Mr. Brummell
was given to saying that of a good many people, in-
cluding, of late, a very exalted personage indeed.



GRANIA could never clearly recall how the
hours passed, the immediate hours that fol-
lowed on the departure of Dennis. She knew dimly
that she lay for a long, long time on the green head-
land overlooking the sea, and that her heart was
sorely troubled by conflicting emotions. She was
shaken with grief for the going of her lover, and
she was torn with longing for his return. She
wished, like the Egyptian queen, that she could
sleep out the great gap of time between the present
and his home-coming, and wake to find him at her
side triumphant. She would not allow herself to
doubt for a moment that his triumph was certain,
that Dennis would come back to her with the
laurels and gold for which he yearned, the laurels
and the gold which she applauded him for seeking
since he sought them for her sake. She would not
admit to herself that she might have been better
pleased if he had chosen to remain. She had truly
meant what she said when she voiced her readiness
to be a farmer's wife, but she recognized that it
was a man's part to go out and face the world and


fight its giant and its dragons and bring back its
wreaths and trophies to lay at the feet of his sweet-

Somewhere in the depths of Crania's conscience a
small voice seemed to be trying to question her con-
fidence. "How if he does not succeed ?" the small
voice whispered. Grania stifled that small voice
resolutely, would not consent to listen to it, would
not admit for an instant that she had heard a syllable
of its speech. There was no question, there must be
no question, there could be no question of Dennis's
success. What might not genius accomplish, genius
inspired by love, though the way of its victory was
among strangers in a strange land. She lay long on
the headland staring down into the waters below
and wondering if her lover would indeed draw the
Buried City from those shining waves and show
it again to the eyes of man. She dreamed waking
dreams there and she dreamed sleeping dreams, for
after a while her own weariness and the stillness all
around her lulled the girl into a torpor which soothed
her vexed nerves, and presently drifted into slumber.
Regret for the going of Dennis, admiration for the
courage that prompted his departure, wonder as to
what would happen to him in that far-off, implacable
city, moved for a little while confusedly through her
mind and then ceased to trouble her as sleep deep-
ened and presently shifted into the embroglio of

It seemed to her that she was awake and lying


where she lay a common experience of the dream
state but it was no longer sunlight, but rather
moonlight, though with a stranger radiance than
that of any evening she had ever known. It seemed
to her as she lay thus and stared at the familiar
place so unfamiliarly illuminated that all those
fanciful creatures of whom she had discoursed
a while ago to the Englishman were flitting hither
and thither, shadowless in the shining air. The
pooka galloped noiselessly by, his wild mane stream-
ing behind him, his eyes glowing like bright coals.
Leprechaun after leprechaun came noiselessly across
the grass, each bearing a bag upon his shoulders, the
contents of which he disgorged at the girl's feet, and
those bags were each full of splendid treasures,
great gold pieces and ropes of glorious jewels, and
vessels of gold and vessels of silver, and as the fairy
creatures continued to empty their sacks the magnifi-
cent pile seemed to rise higher and higher before the
girl a mountain of marvels. Far below her, where
the waters were rippling upon the sands, she could
hear the bells of the buried city faintly chiming, and
through the chime came the sound of the mermaids
singing, and though she could not distinguish the
words of the song, she seemed to derive from the
sound of it refreshment and encouragement. Above
her in the purple clouds that drifted across the moon-
lit sky she could trace the majestic shapes of the
ancient gods. Around her the voices of the heroes
thundered their war-cries down the wind. The


mountain of marvels was attaining gigantic propor-
tions, when suddenly it seemed to the girl that a great
peal of thunder shattered the whole world, banish-
ing gods, heroes, and fairies, overturning the hill of
treasure and burying her under its gorgeous ruins.

With a start and a shiver Grania awoke and sat
up. She could still hear the sound of the thunder
that had demolished her vision, only it was not
thunder at all, but merely the shrill voice of a child
that was lustily calling to her by name. The caller,
who was running vigorously up the hillside, was no
other than the little girl that had helped to plague
the Parliament-man with her impertinent impor-
tunities. Her sturdy bare legs seemed to twinkle
as she ran, spurning the turf and shouting as she
sped. When she got to where Grania was sitting
Biddy was not a little blown, but she could still
gather sufficient breath to tell her message.

"Miss Grania, darling," she cried, "there is a
strange man in the village." Grania, with the im-
pression of her amazing dream still warm upon her
and her brain teeming with images of deities and
elves, was not greatly impressed by a statement that
seemed so impressive to the child.

"That is no wonder, Biddy," she said, as she
scrambled to her feet and shook herself free from the
dregs of sleep. "I hear that my Lord Cloyne has
many guests at the Hall at this time."

Biddy shook her head vigorously, and her red
curls bobbed about her ruddy, sunburnt face like


little leaping flames. "It is not my Lord Cloyne
this one is seeking," she answered, emphatically,
"but just your own self." She spoke decisively;
then, after a pause, while an anxious expression
ruled her usually mirthful countenance, she added
hurriedly, "Oh, Miss Grania, I hope there is
nothing wrong."

Grania laughed heartily at the child's obvious
concern. "Why, what should be wrong, Biddy?"
she asked. The girl looked at once troubled and
wise. "I do not know at all," she answered, "but
it seems a queer thing surely for a man from Heaven
knows where to be asking after you."

It did seem not a little queer to Grania that any
one should be asking after her after her, that knew
no one in the whole wide world outside the king-
dom of Kerry. She was still a little dazed and
mazed by her dream, and her sleep, and her parting
from Dennis. She questioned Biddy as to the
stranger's appearance.

"Sure, but it is a hard face he has," the child
answered, "and he carries a small bag in his hand,
and I had a thought in my mind that maybe he
was a process-server."

"If he were that," said Grania, calmly un-
troubled by the terror in Biddy's voice, "his busi-
ness would be more likely with My Lord Cloyne
than with me. Did he look like an Englishman ?"

The child shook her head again. "Not so bad
as that," she answered, and then, pointing down


the hill, she added: "See for yourself, for here he
comes with that old fool Larry to guide him, bad
cess to him! Shall we run away, Miss Grania ?"

Grania laughed at the girl's imaginary terrors as
she shook her head. "No, Biddy," she answered;
"if the gentleman wants to see me I'll not be deny-
ing him."

Biddy sighed profoundly. "I hope no harm
will come of it," she murmured.

Then the two waited in silence until Larry and
the stranger climbed to where they stood. The
stranger dismissed Larry with the gift of a small
coin, and, advancing, asked if he had the honor to
address Miss O'Hara. After Crania's assurance
that she was no less than herself, the stranger politely
expressed a wish for some private conversation.
Thereupon Grania dismissed Biddy in spite of her
well-nigh tearful petition to be allowed to remain,
"for fear he means harm," and Grania and the
stranger were left alone.

Grania looked her seeker over, and found nothing
in the stranger to justify Biddy's trepidations. He
was a well-built, grave, hard-featured, middle-aged
man with a smooth-shaven face which seemed to
have been carved out of some dark wood rather
than molded out of human flesh. The expression
of the features was strewn with the sternness of one
that has combatted the world and won his way
out after no lazy battle, but it was not forbidding,
and the look of the dark eyes was very shrewd


and steady. All his actions were slow, precise, and

He opened his little bag, took out a card from
it, and handed it to the girl. "That is my name,"
he said.

The girl took the card and looked at it. It
bore the words "Hiram Pointdexter, Attorney-at-
Law, Wall Street, New York City." She gave him
back the card. "You are Mr. Pointdexter?" she

The man nodded. " I have crossed the Atlantic,"
he said, "on your account. I was fortunate enough
to obtain permission to accompany the Com-
missioners from the United States sent over to
negotiate at Ghent the terms of peace with Great
Britain. I shall be glad if you can favor me with
your attention."

"Will you come with me to my cabin?" Grania
questioned, "or shall we sit here and talk in the
open air. I should like that best if you are will-
ing, for I am never within four walls if I can help

"You are in the right of it, Miss O'Hara," the
lawyer said. "If I had my way I would be camp-
ing in the Adirondacks instead of spending my
days in a lawyer's office." Indeed, he looked such
a man as would prefer, and had preferred, the open
to the pent air of cities. He sat down opposite
the girl on the smooth grass, and opening the bag
again, took out of it a packet of papers neatly tied


together with red tape. He unfastened the tape
with a brisk, dexterous twist, and laid the various
papers beside him on the turf. Then he looked
steadily at Grania and questioned her. "Miss
O'Hara," he asked, "what do you know of your
uncle Phelim O'Hara, of New York City, and of
Poughkeepsie, in the same State?"

Grania shook her head. This uncle of hers was
a dim tradition in her little book of family history,
a man, a mystery, of whom her nurse sometimes at
rare intervals spoke darkly. "Little or nothing,"
she said. "He disappeared when I was a baby
after the trouble of Ninety-eight. No one knows
what became of him."

As he listened to Crania's words Mr. Pointdexter's
impassive countenance became, if possible, a shade
more impassive than before. "I know," he said,
gravely. "Let me tell you the whole story." He
coughed, shuffled his little array of papers anew,
and then began in the solemn voice of the story-
teller. "In the year 1797, the year immediately
preceding your unfortunate revolution, which, un-
happily, was not so successful as ours, your father,
Patrick O'Hara, and his elder brother, Phelim,
were as good friends as brothers can hope to be.
They shared the same tastes, pursued the same
sports, seemed admirable companions. Then they
both fell in love with the same woman, and im-
mediately the union of their lives was ruined, and
from being the best of friends the pair became


bitter enemies. Your uncle, I regret to say, after
a fierce altercation in a public place, tried to kill
your father, and was only restrained by the inter-
ference of officious bystanders, who parted the un-
natural combatants. The young lady whose good
graces were thus competed for, naturally annoyed
by the incident, promptly married your father and
became in due time your mother."

Grania gave a little sigh for the mother she could
not remember, the mother who had died when she
was but three years old. Mr. Pointdexter made a
slight inclination of the head as if in respect to her
thoughts and then went on.

"Your uncle was preparing to leave Ireland when
the rebellion of Ninety-eight broke out. Both he
and your father took part in it. Your father was
killed fighting in Wexford "

Grania interrupted him with sparkling eyes
and ringing voice. "God bless him!" she said,

Again Mr. Pointdexter bowed his head as if in
agreement, then he continued, in the same steady,
measured, monotonous tones. "Your uncle, with
a price upon his head, was smuggled out of Ireland
by the late Lord Cloyne, father of the present earl,
who had a great affection for him in spite of the
difference in their political and religious opinions.
He made his way to New York, found a stimulus
for his ambition in the bracing air of the young
Republic, and partly by ability, partly by luck, he


amassed in a very few years what may fairly be
called without exaggeration a colossal fortune."

Grania could not restrain a smile. "I'm think-
ing/' she said, "that must be a queer feeling for
an O'Hara."

Mr. Pointdexter consented to soften the rugged -
ness of his visage with an answering smile. "It
was," he said, dryly, "but all that is over and done
with. Phelim O'Hara is no more. Before he
struck his final balance he seems to have experienced
some feeling akin to remorse. He had always
practised his religion, though he had never followed
it, but in his final illness he seems to have repented
of his conduct to his brother and to the woman that
became his brother's wife, and with my legal as-
sistance he sought to make amends."

He paused for a moment as if he expected the girl
to say something, but Grania was at a loss what to
say. "Poor Uncle Phelim!" she murmured. "It
is hard to be after trying to cry for an uncle one
never saw and almost never heard of."

Mr. Pointdexter smiled again, but this time it was
a somewhat sour smile. "My dear young lady,"
he said, dryly, "your Uncle Phelim was not a man
who wanted to be cried over, living or dead. Let
us say no more about him than is necessary, no
more than it is essential for me to say. In a word,
he has made you the heir to his entire fortune."

Mr. Pointdexter paused and looked steadily at
the girl, who looked back at him with a puzzled ex-


pression on her face. The words he had uttered
conveyed little meaning to her mind.

Mr. Pointdexter continued. "You seem to take
the news of your sudden affluence very composedly."

Grania felt and looked bewildered. She seemed
to realize dimly and laboriously that the death of her
uncle meant some solid gain to her. "Am I really
comfortably off?" she asked.

"Comfortably is not the word," Mr. Pointdexter
commented, with a faint hint of irony in his voice.

Grania clasped her hands and gasped. For the
moment she could not speak. She could scarcely
think. Almost she could have persuaded herself
that the whole thing was a dream, a vision as un-
substantial and illusive as that of the fairies. She
closed her eyes and opened them again. She ex-
pected to find herself alone on the hillside. But she
was not alone. Mr. Pointdexter was sitting be-
side her with his face that seemed carved out of
some dark wood turned toward her, and in his hand
he held a number of pieces of folded paper disposed
like the cards in some important game. It really
was true that the lawyer was sitting there, it really
might be true, this marvelous tale he was telling.
The tidings were so astonishing, for all that they
were told so methodically and formally by the pre-
cise lawyer from over seas, that they had almost
a stunning effect upon the girl's mind. Only half
an hour ago she had been what she had been all
her life, a child of extreme poverty, a poverty that

9 117


was little less stern than the poverty of the humblest
beggar on my Lord Cloyne's estate, and in this pov-
erty she had expected to pass the remainder of her
days, unless, indeed, Dennis succeeded in making
good his brave words and came back from London
with his pockets stuffed with guineas. All in a
flutter of wonder, Grania stretched out her hands
to the lawyer. Her mind was busy with unfa-
miliar speculation. "Have I," she questioned,
"oh, have I as much as two hundred pounds a
year ?"

"More like two hundred thousand a year," Mr.
Pointdexter answered, blandly.

Grania stared at him as one might stare at some
amazing apparition. "Sure, you are joking," she
said, weakly.

Mr. Pointdexter shook his head. "My dear
young lady," he said, seriously, " I have not crossed
the Atlantic although, I admit, handsomely recom-
pensed for my pains in order to crack jokes on an
Irish hillside. You may take my word for it that
you are an amazingly wealthy young woman, prob-
ably the richest young woman now living in the
United Kingdom."

To hear such astounding words issuing from the
lips of so grave a countenance was enough to upset
the balance of the most well-regulated nature.
Grania, who was a very irresponsible child of nature,
did not receive them according to any conventional
canon of the reception of good news. Her fancy


leaped instantly to the incident of the dream that she
had told to Dennis, and while its vivid imagery re-
kindled in her, she clasped her hands together

"Bless the little fellow's green coat and red cap!"
she cried. "I knew it meant luck." Something like
astonishment for a moment asserted itself on Mr.
Pointdexter' s iron countenance. "I beg your par-
don," he questioned, and the solemnity with which
he spoke recalled Grania to herself.

" Oh, nothing," she answered. " I was just think-
ing of a dream I had." She kept silent for an in-
stant, then she asked: "And is this money all my
own, my very own, to do exactly as I please with ?"

"The money has been left to you absolutely,"
Mr. Pointdexter replied, "without any condition
except this, that if you marry you must marry an

"And who else would I be wanting to marry?"
Grania answered. She paused for a moment, and
then said, with apparent irrelevance. "His name is
Dennis Tirowen."

"Indeed," said Mr. Pointdexter, raising his eye-
brows; "and who is Dennis Tirowen ?"

Grania explained, flushed and enthusiastic. "He
is the best fiddler in Kerry, and the greatest poet in
all the world, and he has gone off to London to make
his fortune, that he may come back and marry me.
But there is no need for him to make his fortune now,
so let's go after him and bring him back."


Mr. Pointdexter raised a delaying hand. " Gently,
young lady, gently," he said. "From my knowl-
edge of the world, I should say that your young
friend is likely to return when he hears of your good

Grania was about to protest vigorously at this
assumption on the part of the lawyer, but Mr.
Pointdexter lifted up his hand as if to command
silence, and, somewhat to her surprise, Grania obeyed
him. Indeed, she found him a person that was
used to obedience, this bringer of strange news.
Mr. Pointdexter was silent for a few seconds; then
he spoke again.

"My dear young lady," he said, gravely, "I take
it for granted that I have surprised you not a little
by the news that I have made known to you to-day.
But on the other hand, I am bound to admit that
you also have surprised me a good deal."

Grania stared at him with raised eyebrows.
"Indeed," she said, "and how so ?"

Mr. Pointdexter explained. "From what I had
heard, I understood that you were reduced to great
poverty, and from what I see" and as he spoke he
glanced with a look of commiseration at the girl's
clothes "I learn that what I heard was true.
But, and you must pardon me if I appear inquisitive,
while you dress like a peasant and live like a peasant,
you do not speak like a peasant and you do not
carry yourself like a peasant."

Grania laughed pleasantly. "That is easily


explained," she answered. "My old nurse, who
took charge of me after the rising, was a well-edu-
cated woman to start with, and for my sake she
bettered her education, that I might benefit by her
knowledge. I was a quick child, I believe, and
picked up information quickly, and Father O'Keefe,
that was a man of great learning, took an interest in
me and taught me Latin and French. And the
young man I was speaking of, Dennis Tirowen, that
I have known since I was so high, why, he has al-
ways loved songs and poetry and music, and he
taught me some of his arts."

Mr. Pointdexter nodded, and a queer smile played
for a moment over his grim face. "You will cer-
tainly not be so unfit for your new life as I expected,"
he said. "You must know that there is a proviso
in the will suggesting, although not insisting, that
you should commit yourself, for your preparation
for the society to which your wealth entitles you, to
the tutelage of the Earl and Countess of Cloyne, to
whom, in the case that you and they agree, your
uncle leaves a very handsome sum. This repre-
sents his gratitude to the late earl, who connived at
his escape."

Grania burst out laughing. "The Earl and
Countess of Cloyne!" she cried. "Oh, Lord, what

A certain sternness in Mr. Pointdexter's glance
arrested Crania's mirth. "May I ask," he said,
solemnly, "why you appear to be diverted."


Instantly Grania was discretion itself. "I was
only amused," she said, demurely, "at the thought
that it should be worth the while of my lord and my
lady to take any notice of me."

Mr. Pointdexter, in spite of his natural gravity,
seemed to find something not unentertaining in the
situation, for his eyes twinkled in his rigid face.

"The possession of wealth," he said, philosophi-
cally, "alters one's relationship to the world in
general very considerably."

Mr. Pointdexter's words seemed to move his
hearer more than perhaps the speaker expected.

"The possession of wealth," Grania repeated,
only as yet vaguely conscious of her changed estate.
"If I am wealthy I can save the Round Tower."

Mr. Pointdexter glanced at the great white pillar
rising from the green grass. "Save the Round
Tower ?" he repeated. " I am afraid I do not quite
understand. Pray explain."

Whereupon Grania explained. She told her at-
tentive, impassive listener how she loved the Round
Tower, how she had served it and tended it since her
childhood, how it seemed to her the most sacred
of all the sacred things in the sacred soil about her.
Then she told him how it was blown abroad, in a
rumor spreading from the Hall to the village, and
from the village to the country-side, and generally
believed, that my Lord Cloyne had promised to
sell the Round Tower to some gentleman from
England, and to allow the foreigner to transplant


it stone by stone from the soil whence it sprang to
an alien land. There were tears in Crania's eyes
as she told the tale, and hope in her eyes as she
asked, eagerly, if, now that she was rich, she had
money enough to buy the beloved Round Tower
away from the enemy?

Mr. Pointdexter had scarcely finished assuring
her that with her command of money it would be
well-nigh hopeless for any one to compete with her
in a struggle for the possession of the Round Tower,
when Grania rose to her feet with a little cry and
pointed down the hill-road. Mr. Pointdexter, fol-
lowing the direction of Crania's finger, observed a
small company of human beings leisurely ascending
the slope. These human beings, Grania told him,
hurriedly, certainly included Lord and Lady Cloyne,
and probably included the would-be purchaser of
the Tower.

"They are coming," she said, fiercely, "to buy
it, the beautiful Tower, the glory of the foreland,
my dear, dear Tower. But they shall not have it
now! Come away before they see us."

Grania in her eagerness almost dragged Mr.
Pointdexter from where he stood to the base of the
Tower. Then nimbly ascending the flight of steps,
she beckoned him to follow, which he did with the

1 2 3 4 5 7 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Online LibraryJustin H. (Justin Huntly) McCarthyThe fair Irish maid → online text (page 7 of 20)